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How to get buy-in to your Data Governance Framework

Everyone agrees that implementing data governance can be challenging, but not all parts of the process are as difficult as others. Designing a simple data governance framework to help your organisation proactively manage the quality of its data is not too hard to do. The problem most people face is getting their stakeholders to buy-in.

So how can you overcome that?

The first and most important thing to do is to get buy in before you design it! It's easy to overlook such a simple step, but doing so can have a significant impact on the likely success of your initiative. People do not like change being "done to them", however, most stakeholders are open to change if they can see the benefits to them and more importantly if they are involved in it.

So put down your pen and step away from the keyboard, it's time to meet and actively engage your senior stakeholders. Successful data governance is all about achieving cultural change and you need to start that at the very beginning. You are going to need to talk to your senior stakeholders, but remember their involvement is not just to get permission to start your data governance initiative. Their involvement is key for two reasons:

  • To make sure you design the right framework.
  • To fully engage them by involving them in designing it.

Of course, just asking senior stakeholders to help you design a data governance framework is only part of the answer. To get them to engage in the first place, you are going to have to explain to them why data governance is needed.

How you go about selling data governance is going to be critical to getting permission to launch a data governance initiative and there are three key areas you should consider:

1) Ensure that your activities are aligned with your corporate strategy

Your strategy articulates what your organisation is trying to achieve over the next few years. You are only going to get senior stakeholders interested in your initiative if you are able to explain how data governance is needed to help you achieve your corporate strategy.  For example, one client had an objective to withdraw from a particular market segment but their data was not good enough for them to accurately identify the customers that fell within that segment – so it was easy to work out where to focus some Data Governance efforts!

2) Selling the benefits is far more successful than using a stick approach and saying that you ‘have to’ do Data Governance

To achieve real buy-in, your stakeholders need to understand "what is in it for them".  Even when working in environments with regulatory “sticks” e.g. Solvency II for Insurance companies, I have worked out and explained the benefits which each department could achieve, rather than just saying they “had to do Data Governance to meet Solvency II requirements”.

3) Selling generic benefits is much less effective than explaining the specific benefits to your organisation

Sharing a list of generic benefits will lead to many people saying "so what?". To really achieve interest and engagement you need to work out and share the specific benefits that your organisation will achieve from implementing data governance.  So you need to take time to find out what costs are arising from poor quality data in your organisation and use that real example with proven costs, rather than just mention that you hope to achieve general cost savings. Other tangible benefits arising from the accurate view of data that governance programs can bring is the ability to gain a unique understanding of your customer base. For organisations, especially those where customer engagement is a key priority such as membership, this would be seen as an incredibly valuable strategic reason to invest in governance.

To summarise, gaining buy-in to your data governance framework hinges upon your ability to correctly identify and then sell the benefits of data governance to your stakeholders. Then, once you have convinced your senior stakeholders that they need to embrace data governance, don't forget to involve them in designing your framework so that they feel truly involved and have some ownership of it. This will make implementing the framework a lot easier.

If you don't yet feel confident in your own understanding of data governance and the potential benefits you may find this white paper a good starting place to help you identify how to explain and sell data governance in your organisation.

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